The portrait of Nelson Mandela is - like the man himself - forged from violence and endurance, created as the artist pounded the wall 27 000 times with a boxing glove which bore the Chinese character for “freedom”.
The resulting Mandela - a boxer and leader of armed struggle jailed for 27 years before becoming South Africa's president and world-renowned peacemaker - smiles softly with twinkling eyes and a gentle, knowing gaze.
The mural dominates the Shanghai studio of Belgian artist Phil Akashi, 34, who spent late June and early July punching in the intense summer heat of the city where he has made his home, telling AFP: “I think I lost three to five kilos in five weeks”.
He began the work - which is six metres high - after hearing that Mandela was battling for his life, entering hospital two months ago and turning 95 there in July.
Mandela's health, said to be critical at times but lately showing improvement, has captured worldwide attention.
Akashi used cinnabar paste, which is associated with life and eternity in Chinese culture, and the colour black to represent Mandela's fight against his country's institutionalised racism.
“I really consider Nelson Mandela an extraordinary artist of peace,” Akashi says. “He really represents a fantastic source of inspiration for the entire world.”
The “freedom” character was on a rubber Chinese-style seal mounted on the glove.
Akashi believes Mandela, as an international symbol of unification, can inspire China's younger generation even from his sickbed.
Mandela's story might bring a “message of hope”, Akashi says, and “inspire some people to act or to fight for freedom”. - Sapa-AFP